It’s not enough to be busy anymore

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about? – Henry David Thoreau

We’re all busy, and increasingly so — all of us. Some (much) more than others, obviously, but busy is the new normal, and (as long as humans are at the top of the food chain) there’s no going back. Increasingly this “busyness” is becoming decoupled from mere subsistence, and it’s not totally clear yet what it will mean when this already taut connection breaks completely.

Even when AIs are doing all of our work, and the fortunate among us effectively don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do, we’ll still have to find ways to sate our starving brains, which have been primed over millions of years to need all kinds of sensory input, and all of the time.

If white space makes you uncomfortable now, how are you going to deal when that’s all there is?

For much of my life I thought if I just remained busy I’d be successful, and “lucky” for me it never really felt like I had a choice. Busy learning. Busy writing. Busy seeking out knowledge. Busy creating. Curiosity has always been a staple of my being — I was never not doing.

Being hyper-productive and driven has served me exceptionally well professionally, but it’s also been a total drain. Compulsions — even those as seemingly benign as learning — don’t usually feel like a choice, and the pressure to chip away at them can be suffocating.

It’s more than a little crazy (and sad) that if you graphed homo sapiensintellectual output over time it would rise quickly and to the right, and then…automation and AI…and then nothing? What’s the answer? How do we keep ourselves busy in the future? How do we make anything that matters? VR? Drugs?

Idiocracy is on the march, and may end up being the new normal until the machines figure out what, if anything, we can do for them. We need to crack this if we think we’re at all special in view of our technological creations.

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